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Development in Conflict with the Official Community Plan

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

Background The over-arching document that sets the land use direction for any property is the Official Community Plan (OCP). The OCP provides a framework of goals and policies to guide decisions on planning and land use within Penticton’s boundaries. All pertinent bylaws, works, and all rezoning requests undertaken by Council should be consistent with the OCP.

Local residents consider the 2014 Official Community Plan ("OCP") and the associated 2014 Spiller Road Neighborhood Concept Plan ("NCP") as outdated as they have been repealed and replaced by the 2019 OCP. The new OCP is viewed to be comprehensive and well thought out and was presented and accepted by Council and residents as the blueprint for future growth in the area.

Developer Canadian Horizons ("CH") claims that the 2014 Spiller Road NCP is incorporated by reference into the 2019 OCP, and therefore only requires re-zoning approval to proceed. It is true that Neighborhood Plans such as the Spiller Road NCP may be newly created or revised after adoption of the OCP. However, these plans must clearly indicate how they conform to the current OCP and how they will help achieve its vision, goals and policies. Neighborhood plans must additionally take into account current neighborhood form and character, infrastructure and servicing costs, social benefits, ecological and agricultural impacts, and the impact of transportation.

Deficiencies of the 2014 NCP Council cannot properly consider a zoning application based on outdated principles contained in the 2014 NCP which do not take into account the principles in a subsequent OCP.

1. Environmental issues. The 2014 NCP did not take into account the provisions in the Federal Species at Risk Act that: "No person shall damage or destroy the residence of one or more individuals or a wildlife species that is listed as an endangered species or a threatened species”. The 2014 NCP also identifies additional environmental issues such as wildfire risk, invasive plant and weed management, and water conservation, none of which have been adequately addressed.

2. Stormwater Issues. The 2019 OCP identifies storm water drainage as a “Key issue” and that best management practices be implemented. These are found in a provincial government publication entitled “Storm water Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia”. In other words, it incorporates by reference the BC government guidelines on storm water planning. The 2014 NCP makes no mention of this.

In British Columbia, the Local Government Act has vested the responsibility for drainage with municipalities. With this statutory authority for drainage, local governments can be held liable for downstream impacts that result from changes to upstream drainage patterns – both volume and rate. The Act also enables local governments to be proactive in implementing storm water management solutions that are more comprehensive than past practice.

The provincial Guidebook was published in 2002 but seems to have foreseen exactly the storm water drainage problem that arose in Naramata in March 2018 as a result of development in an upland area with geology very similar to that in the Spiller Road property. The Guidebook states:

“Preventing Storm water History from Repeating Itself: Decisions about land use change must be made with a full awareness of the potential consequences for storm water management and mandates a science-based understanding of how land development impacts watershed hydrology.”

A critical step is to merge appropriate stormwater management goals, objectives and policies into a local government’s OCP. OCPs, and related NCP’s, commonly set out broad goals, objectives and policies that guide implementation actions by local governments. Although OCPs do not bind a local government to a specific action, they prohibit the local government from acting contrary to the stated policies. Establishing the right stormwater management policy framework and merging this framework with the OCP will ensure that land development decisions (at the planning and site design levels) address stormwater management objectives.

Unmanaged stormwater often leads, eventually, to major public expense in infrastructure to solve flooding or erosion problems, sometimes driven by litigation.

“Practice precautionary decision-making. Land use decisions should err on the side of caution in cases where there is a risk of significant or irreversible damage to ecosystems or species.[1]

3. Purpose, scope and vision

3.1 Urban Sprawl. CH’s proposal focuses on the development and building of a new neighbourhood at Spiller Road rather than intensifying existing urban areas and maximizing use of existing infill and other properties; Spiller Road will not be an easily accessible community, will have few transportation choices, and few, if any, affordable housing options and choices. Because of its remote location, the proposed development will require expensive infrastructure and Road upgrades.

3.2 Wildlife.The development will undoubtedly have a disastrous impact on wildlife in the area. It is certain to drive wildlife out. It is naïve to think that the proposed wildlife corridors will have no impact. The OCP principle of minimizing the impact on natural areas is completely ignored by the proposals.

3.3 Ambience and Character. One of the stated objectives of the OCP is to limit intensive development in areas which may conflict with the general ambience and character of the Naramata Bench. The proposed Spiller Road development fails to meet either of these objectives.

3.4 Agritourism. Penticton’s Economic Strategy does take into account the significant contribution and economic priority cluster of the wine and viticulture industry, one that is permanent and has opportunity for growth and new investment. Tourism on the other hand was more difficult to define but is the #2 industry in Penticton. These are important numbers and need to be properly addressed and a full report completed outlining the economic contribution that the Naramata Bench makes to the City of Penticton and the Province of British Columbia to ensure a sustainable future for the community.

4. Other Consequences of the Canadian Horizon Proposal

There are many other major concerns that much of what CH proposes is not consistent with the OCP. Examples taken from the OCP that are in direct contradiction to the CH proposal include the following with our comments in italics:

4.1 Natural Environment. Penticton is, in large part, defined by its unique topography, lakeside setting and views. The hillsides are a key part of its natural setting. Poorly designed and managed development on hillsides can have a negative impact on the natural environment, expose residents to risk, disrupt views to and from the hillside and create communities highly reliant on the automobile for travel.

Whether or not CH’s proposal is centred around high-density housing, the proposed development would severely affect the views and potentially the watershed, thereby having an impact on the agricultural lands below. Run-off from the disturbed lands may affect the viability of orchards, vineyards and farms below. It will also affect the attractiveness of the region and affect success of businesses that rely on tourism.

4.2 Agriculture. We are a community focused on producing locally grown food from our agricultural lands.

Run-off from the disturbed lands may affect the viability of orchards, vineyards and farms below. It will also affect the attractiveness of the region and affect success of businesses that rely on tourism.

4.3 Sustainability. We need to establishing a sustainable community into the future, while at the same time minimizing impacts on ecological areas and natural systems.

This development would have a severe impact on ecological areas and natural systems.

4.4 Protection of agricultural land and parks. These are the attributes that are so highly valued by Penticton’s residents. We need to ensure that these natural and agricultural areas remain intact for future generations.

Although this development is not in the ALR, it is within the boundaries of the Sub GI and could potentially be considered as agricultural land for grazing or other production in the future. Some was previously orchard. All of the proposed development land borders on the ALR and some of it has potential to become agricultural land.

4.5 Climate Change. We need to adapt strategies relating to climate change and extreme weather events and their impact on our community.

Climate change is occurring, resulting in lands that were not previously considered agricultural now becoming productive for a wide range of agricultural uses.

4.6 Non-farm use of land. Proposed compatible non-farm uses and non-soil-based agriculture should be comprehensively reviewed to ensure there are NO negative impacts on agricultural viability and operations.

This statement in particular applies to the proposed land as it is directly adjacent to the Naramata Bench and all of the agricultural activity taking place there.

4.7 Prevent subdivision of agricultural lands. In most cases, City utilities and services will not be provided to these lands to discourage development of non-agricultural uses, and growth will be directed towards more central and well-serviced infill areas land uses (e.g., residential or commercial).

The proposed development is in direct contradiction to the 2019 OCP. It proposes development of agricultural land away from existing city infrastructure.

4.8 Buffer Zones. Consider establishing buffers including distance setbacks, landscape buffers and fencing requirements to minimize conflicts between agricultural and other land uses (e.g. Residential or commercial).

All of this land should be considered a buffer zone between the ALR and the Sub GI.

4.9 South Okanagan Agricultural Hub. Penticton’s role as a hub for the South Okanagan wine region and fruit production should be enhanced.

This development will severely affect the brand that so many have worked so hard to create. Tourists have indicated that they would stop coming to Penticton and the Naramata Bench if developments such the one being proposed are allowed to happen.

[1] Biodiversity Conservation Strategy for the South Okanagan Similkameen completed in 2012 entitled Keeping Nature in our Future:

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